The Willows Swim Club has been cooling off the neighborhood since 1955. (Photo courtesy of Steve Friedman.)

By Myles Ma

Tucked away on Willow Road is one of the most low-key gathering places in Lawrence. Near the end of the street, there is a pool. It doesn’t look like much now — it isn’t filled and leaves cover most of the nearby tables. But by Memorial Day the pool will be cleaned and filled, and the Willows Swim Club will have kicked off its season.

Much of the responsibility for getting the pool ready will fall on Bill Schroeder, who has been a member since 1972.

“I bet you half the people in Lawrenceville don’t even know this pool exists,” he said.

The pool wasn’t always under the radar. Though it only counted 44 families as members initially, compared with a max of 55 today, the waiting list for memberships was so large when the Willow Swim Club opened that people on the list formed the Lawrence Swim Association.

The two swim clubs still share ties. Members of the Willows Swim Club, which has no swim team, can join the LSA swim team.

This way, Schroeder said, Willow members get the best of both worlds. Their kids can still swim competitively, but they don’t get kicked out of the pool since they’re practicing somewhere else.

The pool’s members mainly come from the surrounding neighborhood, as well as Lawrenceville School faculty and alumni. It was 12 people from the neighborhood who started the swim club in 1954.

Evelyn Bacon, who lived at 23 Willow Road, offered to sell the two lots that today comprise the pool and the surrounding property for $3,000 and a membership in the club to start the Willows Swim Club. In the days when there was no air conditioning and no country clubs in the area, easy access to a pool was more valuable than it is today.

“People were looking for ways to cool off back then,” Schroeder said.

Not much about the pool has changed since those days, The changing areas and the bathrooms are new, but the pool is pretty much as it was in 1955.

It is still a place for families to cool off, get some exercise and for their children to play. The pool is within walking distance for many of its members, including the club’s current president, Steve Friedman, who has been a member since 2005 and lives a block away.

“I would say over half the members probably walk,” Friedman said.

The pool’s membership has dispersed over the years, however, and it has become a focal point for families in Lawrence who wouldn’t normally come together. Friedman said his family has made friends from meeting people at the pool. With dues of $625, Friedman said the Willow Swim Club is a fraction of the cost of joining a country club, which is among the only other alternatives for families looking for access to a pool.

The Willows Swim Club will be accepting memberships until opening on Memorial Day. For more information, e-mail willowsswimclub@gmail.com.